This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
2017/ First butterfly count, Delhi
Butterfly lovers and lepidopterists were delighted with the results of the first `butterfly count' in NCR, recording 69 species in the region. The results were announced on Saturday in an event which also saw butterfly enthusiasts submit the names of four butterflies -one of which will be chosen as the state butterfly of the capital.
Armed with a checklist and cameras in their hands, hundreds of people had set out across different parts of NCR to take part in the first ever butterfly count for Delhi. Organised by the conservation education centre (city wing of Bombay Natural History Society), the census was part of the butterfly month which aimed to provide an accurate and updated list of butterfly species found in the region.
Among the rare and uncommon butterflies recorded included psyche, chocolate pansy , Indian red flash, red pierrot, chocolate pansy , African babul and painted lady some of which were sighted after several years.
2018/ Red Pierrot: anomalies in its ‘patterns’
Butterfly lovers and lepidopterists, working around Delhi’s Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, have been in a fix for the last couple of weeks after a number of anomalies were detected in the ‘patterns’ of Red Pierrot — a butterfly commonly found in the Indian subcontinent.
At least four variations in its patterns have been detected so far, forcing the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to launch a study to find out the reasons why this may be happening.
Sohail Madan, centre manager of BNHS at Asola said the variations could indicate a new sub-species, or it may simply be an evolutionary change. The reason, however, needs to be analysed. “The study will take place from Monday and we have asked for butterfly enthusiasts and experts to help us during the survey. So far, at least four variations have been detected in the patterns with the orange and the black markings either increasing or decreasing on its wings,” Madan said.
“Most butterflies have a winter form and a summer form. This particular butterfly has just one form and the markings are well defined. However, we are seeing a lot of variations in the orange and black markings, which could either indicate an evolutionary change, or it could even be sub-species,” Madan said.
According to the centre manager of BNHS, out of the 70-80 Red Pierrot butterflies recorded on Friday alone, almost 50% had anomalies. “The change in pattern does not seem to have affected the population and they are thriving at Asola. We saw around 34-35 such butterflies with variations in the pattern and a detailed study and sample survey should help us come to a conclusion,” Madan added.
The study will take a look at the lower stages of development, beginning from the caterpillar and its diet to determine what may be leading to the change in its designs. Delhi had seen 75 different butterfly species recorded in this year’s annual butterfly count — an increase from 69 species recorded last year.
Peter Smetacek, a lepidopterist said the variations could primarily be adaptive changes or signs of the butterfly coping with the cold. “Red Pierrot, earlier found in south India, has colonised Delhi and even moved up north to places like Kashmir. The difference in temperatures up north as compared to southern and Peninsular India could be the reason behind the change,” he said .
At least four variations in the patterns of Red Pierrot, a butterfly commonly found in the Indian subcontinent, have been detected so far, forcing the Bombay Natural History Society to launch a study to find out the reasons why this may be happening
2019: spring delayed, butterflies increase
NATURE’S DELIGHT, FROM LODHI GARDEN TO YAMUNA BIODIVERSITY PARK
The longer winter — and, consequently, the delayed spring — has turned out to be a blessing for nature lovers. They can now watch a variety of butterflies, most of which are now coming to life after spending the harsh winter in pupal stage. The city’s butterfly parks are now teeming with colourful wings.
At Lodhi Garden’s Butterfly Park, spread over one-anda-half acres, the horticulture department has planted more than 30 species of nectar flora to attract butterflies. Between 9am and 10am, when it starts getting warm, you have a chance to discover grass jewel (the smallest butterfly in the world), Indian cabbage white, common jay, plain tiger and lemon pansy along the trail.
Besides, there is a conservatory where you can see butterflies that have drawn their names from all sorts of flowers, birds and even animals.
New Delhi Municipal Council horticulture director S Chellaiah said: “While the longer winter delayed shedding of leaves in Delhi, it also led to the arrival of spring a little later. That’s why you can still see flowering plants blooming at parks and roundabouts. So is the case with butterflies, which usually get attracted to flowering plants.”
Chellaiah said added: “To attract maximum varieties of butterflies at the garden, we have planted a combination of flower plants that provide nectar for adults and host plants for their caterpillars, such as lantana, Limonia, jatropha curcas, camellia, milk weed, justicia, bauhinia, jasmine, anar, phalsa and lemon tree.”
The butterflies can also be seen in ample numbers at Yamuna Biodiversity Park, Aravalli Biodiversity Park and Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sancturay.
“We have 67 varieties of butterflies at Yamuna Biodiversity Plant. These include common mormon, striped tiger plan, small salmon arab, plain tiger, white arab, common crow and pioneer. Besides March and April, September end and October beginning are considered to be the ideal months of butterfly sightings,” Faiyaz Khudsar, a wildlife biologist and scientist-in-charge of YBP, said.
Looking for butterflies, said Khudsar, meant looking anywhere from one feet above the ground to the tree canopy.
To mark the 83rd birthday of Lodhi Garden, NDMC has transplanted eight new species of trees there. Their lifespan will be more than 300 years, said an NDMC official.
“Since the garden is overcrowded, there is no space for planting more trees. Therefore, this year we decided to plant only eight trees of new variety. These included cochlospermum silk cotton tree, olea sp, kamadal tree and magnolia sp,” said an official.
HAVE WINGS, WILL FLY: 45 LOCATIONS, 500 PARTICIPANTS
Enthusiasts and experts flocked to the green corners of the city on Sunday morning and took part in the third annual butterfly count of the city, organised by Bombay Natural History Society. Around 115 species of butterflies are known from the capital.
September is being celebrated as Delhi Butterfly Month 2019. The celebrations culminated with the Big Butterfly Count, across 45 locations (500 participants) in NCR, and few locations in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The locations were aptly chosen to cater to all the varied habitats of NCR, and more importantly to involve the maximum number of residents across the city, a BNHS official said.
The city locations included Delhi Development Authority’s flagship seven biodiversity parks, namely Yamuna, Aravalli, Neela Hauz, Northern Ridge, Tilpath Valley, Tughlaqabad and South Biodiversity Park.
“Butterflies are the most studied insects in the world and the best pollinators, along with bees. Biodiversity parks and their butterfly conservatories provide special niche for butterflies and bees catering to the requirements of host plants and nectar-bearing plants. Biodiversity parks in a way provide important ecological services through large number of pollinators to the crops in the Yamuna river basin and Aravalli hill ranges,” Faiyaz A Khudsar, scientist in-charge, Yamuna Biodiversity Park, said. He added that this year, rain, along with wind, might have led to sightings of comparatively lesser number of species.
Butterflies are cold-blooded insects and sun-loving creatures. For their survival, they need host plants to lay their eggs on. The caterpillars eat green leaves of host plants and form cocoons. Generally after remaining dormant for a week or two, a beautiful butterfly emerges out of a cocoon.
According to Sohail Madan, CEC, manager, BNHS, the team leaders leading the count on Sunday were all trained by leading lepidopterist Peter Smetacek of Bhimtal Research Centre.
“He explained how to observe, identify and document the number of species on the day of the butterfly count with precision, keeping habitat in mind. With participation of so many people across the city, the butterfly month has made a strong statement in bridging the gap between knowledge and implementation, thereby providing a platform to citizens to learn about butterflies, their behaviour, habitat and conservation,” Madan said.
66 new butterfly species in city, some rare
As part of the third annual butterfly count in the city, 66 new species were spotted by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
Sohail Madan, CEC, manager, BNHS, said, brown awl, Dingy Swift and common red flash were among the rare species spotted this year, while the common ones included plain tiger, common grass yellow, mottled emigrant and common emigrant.
“The butterfly month (September) shows the results of the habitat improvement in Delhi, as these insects are the indicators of a good ecosystem,” said Ishwar Singh, principal chief conservator of forests, adding that as part of the celebration, butterflies were counted at 45 locations in Delhi on September 22.
Around 700 people participated in the Big Butterfly Count, which was also held in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
“It was a half-day event that involved transects walks for observing and listing the species. The habitats surveyed included wildlife sanctuaries, biodiversity parks, city forests, citizen gardens, nature resorts and institutions,” Madan said.
Madan explained that though the total number of species had gone down compared with last year, the counts in the city parks and citizen butterfly garden have gone up. In 2018, the volunteers spotted 69 butterfly species, while in 2017, the number was 75. Around 115 species are native to the Delhi region.
As in 2019 June
Work on creating butterfly corridors in the city is already underway with close to 100 hotspots set to be connected by September by Bombay Natural History Society and experts from the capital.
At present, there are 17 hotspots where butterfly parks or gardens have been created in the last few years. BNHS said a variety of host plants will be grown at such parks and gardens in the green corridor to attract more butterflies.
Experts said at most locations there are already some native trees and plant species that are hosts to butterflies, but additional plantation is being undertaken to ensure a diversity of species arrive there.
“The closer the green areas, the easier it will be for butterflies to move from one location to another. A large butterfly garden exists at Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary and Garden of Five Senses. We have been targeting parks in an around these locations to attract more butterflies,” said Sohail Madan, centre manager of BNHS at Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.
In 2017, the first butterfly month was observed in the city by BNHS and Delhi forest department, culminating in a record species count. A total of 69 species, including rare species like psych, chocolate pansy and red flash, were recorded in the first edition at 14 locations.
Madan said in 2018, 75 species were recorded with almost 3,000 people taking part in the count in urban and forested locations. Among the rare species recorded were the common redeye, common short silverline, dingy swift, common blue line, Balkan pierrot and spotted pierrot, among others.
“Our survey over the past two years has shown that diversity of butterfly species was very low at new parks that have ornamental and exotic plants. The diversity was higher at places like the Ridge, which has native species of plants and trees. The biggest surprises were Sunder Nursery and DDA district parks where we saw rare butterflies like Balkan pierrot, common baron and tropical fritillary,” said Madan.
The newest locations where butterfly gardens have been created include a DAV school in Dwarka, Karma lakelands in Manesar, Mitraon city forest, Taj Enclave city forest, Hauz Rani city forest and a government school in Mangar Bani.
Peter Smetacek, co-founder of Butterfly Research Centre, said the corridor can be an important addition to Delhi and will help the specie flourish.
Butterfly parks within residential colonies
Mandakini Enclave/ 2019
Residents of Mandakini Enclave in Alaknanda celebrated a green Independence Day. They, along with volunteers from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), planted a number of plants that host butterflies, thereby inaugurating the first dedicated butterfly park in a residential colony in Delhi.
The park will be part of a dedicated ‘butterfly corridor’ being created by BNHS, which will see close to 100 butterfly hotspots created by the end of next month. At present, BNHS says, 28 hotspots exist, but this is the first dedicated butterfly habitat in Delhi.
“We have been working hard to create butterfly hotspots in Delhi. The closer they are, the easier it is for butterflies to travel from one hotspot to another. Different host plants attract different butterfly species which can ultimately improve the habitat of the area. Locals will ultimately be taught how they can identify different butterflies,” said Sohail Madan, centre manager of BNHS at Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.
According to him, four more such residential butterfly parks will be created by the end of the month with parks targeted in Saket, Paschim Vihar, Karkardooma and Anand Vihar. The park on Thursday was inaugurated by AAP MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj.
In 2017, the first ever ‘butterfly month’ was observed in the capital by BNHS and the Delhi forest department, culminating in a butterfly count to record species found in Delhi. A total of 69 species were recorded in the first edition from 14 locations with rare species like psych, chocolate pansy and red flash recorded.
Madan says in 2018, 75 species were recorded with almost 3,000 people taking part in the count, which included a mix of urban and forested locations. Among the rare species recorded were the common redeye, common short silverline, dingy swift, common blue line, Balkan pierrot and spotted pierrot among others. “The aim is to increase these numbers and with more hotspots created, we can hope for more butterfly species thriving in the capital,” said Madan.
Anil Kapur, a local resident and volunteer at BNHS, says he had approached the organisation, asking for a butterfly park to be created in the locality. Kapur says members from BNHS came and after surveying all parks in the area, chose the one that would be ideal to attract butterflies, providing locals with a map to follow.
“We have finished this park in about 12 days. This started with cleaning all the garbage that was incorporated in the footpaths we created,” said Kapur, who is also a member of the Mandakini Enclave Welfare Association.
Kapur said once the plants grow to a certain height to attract butterflies, they will start distributing booklets which can help residents identify different species. “We will start counting butterfly species once they arrive and this will be submitted to BNHS. Residents who are interested will be provided booklets which can help them identify the type of species seen here,” said Kapur.
2016/ Southern Bird Wing: State butterfly of Karnataka
The red and yellow stripes of the insect matches the colours of the State flag
Fluttering with distinctive red and yellow stripes amongst the verdant green of the Western Ghats, the Southern Bird Wing butterfly was in-principle approved to become the “State butterfly” of Karnataka.
The proposal for the State butterfly was given approval from the State Wildlife Board during its meeting on Wednesday, said B. Ramanath Rai, Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment.
This makes Karantaka the second State in the country after Maharashtra to adopt a State butterfly. Maharashtra chose the Blue Mormom butterfly as its State butterfly a year ago.
The proposal to adopt Southern Bird Wing butterfly as the State butterfly had been sent by Sanjay Mohan, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Research and Utilisation).
“We short-listed a few butterflies and selected the Southern Bird Wing as its colours match the colours of the Karnataka Flag,” Mr. Mohan said.
The Southern Bird Wing is the largest butterfly in India, with the females growing up to 190 mm in length. Primarily endemic to South India, it is found in abundance in Karnataka.
“As it is easily sighted, we can hope that more people become aware of the importance of butterflies in the eco-system. These are important pollinators, and their preservation is necessary for the eco-system,” said Nitin R., an entomologist with the National Centre for Biological Sciences.
However, he said there could be a downside to this, particularly as the declaration of a State butterfly does not come with the additional protection.
With this particular species of butterfly shooting to prominence, there could be a chance of the colourful creature being targeted and becoming collectibles, he added.
Parambikulam Tiger Reserve: 221 varieties
Survey spots 221 varieties in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve
As dawn breaks, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, one of India’s protected forest areas, turns a garden with dream flowers floating all over. The sight repeats as dusk falls in. Wafer thin canvases bearing a splash of colours flutter all around, filling the reserve with a splendour that matches the aura of a forest full of butterflies.
A recent survey held in the reserve spotted 221 varieties of butterflies, 11 of which were endemic to the area.
With such a rich spread, the reserve could also hit spotlight as a haven of butterflies.
The survey, initiated jointly by the Department of Forest and Wildlife, Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation, and the Wayanad-based Ferns Naturalists Society, was held between November 9 and 12.
Sixty experts and 50 forest protection staff participated in the survey in the reserve.
According to butterfly expert V.K. Chandrasekharan, the major species spotted during the four-day initiative include Small Palm Bob, Silverstreak Blue, Orange-tail Awl, and Red-disc Bushbrown. Among them, Orange-tail Awl gets active only during early morning hours and late in the evening.
The survey was held in different topographies and forest areas, including evergreen forests, dry deciduous forests, moist deciduous forests, shrubs and meadows, which lie in areas such as Aanapanthi, Parambikulam, Kuriarkutty and Nelliampathy.
Seventeen separate camps were arranged in these areas to ensure comprehensive surveying.
“One of the biggest surprises of the survey is the spotting of Red-disc Bushbrown, a high-altitude species endemic to Western Ghats. We found them in an area of Nelliampathy region at an altitude of 1,320 m. It would be difficult to spot them in any part further north of Western Ghats,” said Mr Chandrasekharan.
The survey team had also recorded migration patterns of the rare species — Dark Blue Tiger and Common Crow.
Buddha Peacock or Buddha Mayoori, which was recently declared as State butterfly of Kerala, was found in abundance in some areas of the forest. The survey had also recorded over 100 butterfly host plants in the reserve.
The survey team included members of the Travancore Natural History Society, Malabar Natural History Society, and students of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Wayanad.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the butterfly survey is being organised in Parambikulam.
Involvement of tribes
A pioneer in community-based ecotourism, Parambikulam tries to ensure foolproof conservation with the active involvement of 234 members of six tribal settlements inside its limits. The reserve has many firsts to its credit, made possible through the participation of tribespeople.
Being a protected forest area, the reserve has nearly five endemic flora varieties and has had 29 direct sightings of tigers. Ever since the Joint Forest Participatory Management was introduced, there have been no incidents of poaching in the reserve.
2019/ Indigenous farming systems increased the species diversity
Organic farming breaks the stereotype that agriculture reduces biodiversity
From the iconic Kaiser-i-Hind to the rediscovered Small Woodbrown butterfly, the state of Sikkim is home to nearly 700 species of butterfly. A new study has found that the indigenous farming systems in this area are not affecting butterfly diversity. In fact, the team from Sikkim University found that organic farming has increased the species diversity. This was even higher than the diversity in the nearby forest ecosystem.
268 species identified
The team studied the large cardamom, mandarin orange, farm-based agroforestry and the natural forests in Sikkim and recorded a total of 268 butterfly species belonging to six families in these areas. The butterfly communities included two-third forest specialists, one-third monophagous (feeding only on one type of food), and one-ﬁfth conservation concern species. The paper recently published in Ecological Indicators notes that “diversity was determined by tree species richness, tree density, canopy cover, elevation and mean annual temperature.”
Bhoj Kumar Archarya, the team leader from the university’s Department of Zoology explains that this study has helped break the stereotype that agriculture declines the wild biodiversity. The traditionally managed agroecosystems are not only the system for food production but are an important ecosystem that harbours habitats for different species of plants and animals. He adds that it is important to note that Sikkim is a fully organic state and results may vary when studied on farmland that uses chemicals. “To check this we have now started a study to compare the diversity of butterflies in the different agroecosystems in Sikkim and Darjeeling,” he adds.
Those agroecosystems that still follow the traditional methods of cultivation and use organic manure pesticides “play a complementary role to the protected areas in fostering biodiversity conservation”, adds the report. The team points out that most of the farms in Sikkim are small, and there is a mosaic landscape along with forests which creates very less impact on the natural ecosystem and allows various species to thrive. Also, the perfect elevation, cool temperature and ideal precipitation influence the diversity.
Monitoring the ecosystem
The team also identified 15 indicator species that can be used for long term ecological monitoring of the area. This included 11 habitat specialists, three monophagous, and two species that are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Schedule II). “These species are extremely sensitive and can survive only in a pristine environment. By tracking their numbers and behaviour we can find out if there are any changes in the ecosystem,” explains Kishor Sharma, a PhD scholar at the university and first author of the study.
In an email to The Hindu, Prof. Archarya mentions a few steps that needs to be taken to protect the biodiversity. The agroecosystems need special protection in order to protect the wild biodiversity as there is no scope of extension of protected areas in lower elevation. Two, a synergy between agriculture, horticulture, forest and rural management department along with all stakeholders including farmers is required. Three, farmers should be encouraged and incentivised to maintain the diversity of the farmlands. Finally, more than monoculture systems, the focus should be on growing a variety of crops in a traditionally way and mixed crop farms to better conserve biodiversity.
As the Himalayan biodiversity has recently been facing threats from habitat loss, change in land use, forest fragmentation and urbanisation, it is high time the neighbouring states take notes from Sikkim and shift to traditional organic methods to preserve the biodiversity of the region.
Kallar, a butterfly hotspot with 200 species
DFO says the department will make efforts to protect the habitat
Kallar of Mettupalayam forest range in Coimbatore is a hotspot of butterflies with 200 species, almost two thirds of the target number of butterfly species for the State of Tamil Nadu, 324, says a report by Tamil Nadu Butterfly Society (TNBS).
“Sighting of 200 species in the natural environment within the protected forest is showing Kallar as a true butterfly hotspot and the Department will make efforts to protect the butterfly habitat of Kallar,” said District Forest Officer D. Venkatesh, who released the report at the inauguration of the first integrated Birds and Butterflies Survey of Coimbatore Forest Division here on Friday.
The report titled ‘Kallar- Butterfly hotspot with 200 species sighting’ was a result of study conducted over a period of five years from July 2014 to August 2019 by TNBS members.
Minimum of one visit a month was made and the observations were recorded and analysed in a structured format. Scarce-shot Silverline, a species belonging to Lycaenidae family, was recorded in August 2019 and it turned out to be the 200th species recorded from the place.
Situated approximately 360 m above mean sea level, Kallar falls under the migration route of butterflies.
The Milkweed Danainae butterflies namely Dark Blue Tiger, Blue Tiger, Common Crow and Double-branded Crow regularly migrate through Kallar on either direction before the onset of South West and North East Monsoon.
Common Albatross, which makes mass movements through Aralam in Kerala, then takes a direction towards the Nilgiri Biosphere and at times, reaches Kallar in good numbers. During summer months, Common Emigrants in thousands make migratory movement.
The report recommended systematic long-term surveys to ensure the continuous assessment of butterflies as butterfly presence indicated a healthy eco-system, said A. Pavendhan of TNBS, who, along with Balakrishnan. R, Gopalakrishnan. S, Nishanth C.V. Ramanasaran. H, Theivaprakasham. H, Viswanathan. S and Sravan Kumar K., mainly involved in the study.
2017/ Butterflies in Singur
69 species of butterflies belonging to 54 genera and five families were recorded in a study by the Zoological Survey of India
A study by researchers of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) shows for the first time that thehamlet is home to at least 69 species of butterflies. “A total of 69 species of butterflies belonging to 54 genera and five families were recorded from the study area. Family Nymphalidae was the most dominant among the five families with 22 species, followed by Lycaenidae, comprising of 19 species,” the paper titled ‘A study of butterfly diversity in Singur’ says.
Researchers found butterflies in the rice and vegetable fields of the area, as well as in bushes and shrubs along railway lines and National Highways.
No forested land
Singur has no forested land and the area is known for rice, potato and vegetable cultivation.
Mr. Dey said that more intensive studies on different ecological parameters that can help access diversity of Singur’s fauna are being planned.
The presence of so many species of butterflies has provided a great deal of joy to the farmers who had waged a long battle against the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led West Bengal government against the acquisition of 997 acres of agricultural land for Tata Motors’ Nano car plant in Singur.
“While our struggle was aimed at the return of the land acquired for the proposed car plant, we are happy that it has helped the environment of Singur. There would have not so many butterflies had the car plant been operational,” said Mahabdeb Das, a farmer who was at the forefront of the land acquisition struggle. He was pleasantly surprised to learn about the butterfly diversity of the region.
On August 30, 2017, the Supreme Court quashed the Left Front government’s acquisition of 997 acres of agricultural land for the car plant in Singur. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee returned the acquired land to farmers on September 14, 2016.
Inter-generic mating/ 2019
In a rare occurrence, a butterfly enthusiast recorded the mating of two different species — the zebra blue (leptotes plinius) and the pea blue (lampides boeticus) — in Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Experts said this was a rare phenomenon as butterflies only mate with species that are closest in apprearance to it.
As these species look very different, this could be the first such sighting of inter-generic or inter-familial mating in Delhi.
Surya Prakash, a zoologist from JNU, said he made the sighting on April 28 near Parthasarathy pleateau during mud-puddling of different butterfly species. Photos taken during the sighting helped confirm his rare sighting. “This could well be the first proof of inter-generic mating in Delhi. We are still trying to figure out if it is due to climate change or an adaptive change,” he said.
According to the zoologist, any offspring produced in these cases are either not viable or sterile. Past observances from inter-species mating in China and North America suggests that in some areas, certain species may have fewer mating barriers in terms of species compared to others.
Peter Smetacek, a lepidopterist and co-founder of Butterfly Research Centre at Bhimtal, said that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason but certain locations in India have more instances of interfamilial mating than usual. This includes the mating of Lycaenidae in Maharashtra, while inter-generic mating in catocrysops strabo and lampides boeticus was also recorded in Purulia district of West Bengal.